Shoyu Chicken

Shoyu Chicken is a classic Hawaiian plate lunch dish. Served with ice cream scoop balls of white rice and mac (macaroni) salad with tons of mayo, shoyu chicken is a perfect comfort food. I make it here in New Jersey sometimes to bring a little taste of Hawaii to the East Coast. My ingredients and cooking technique aren’t entirely traditional, and I never make it the exact same way twice, but it always comes out sweet, salty, and juicy, which is what matters.
For the chicken, I used:
  • 1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce (can generally be found at Asian and particularly Chinese food stores; I get mine at 99 Ranch in Jersey City)
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup cooking sake
  • 1/4 tsp five spice powder
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons minced ginger – fresh is best but I didn’t have any, so I used the jarred kind
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cubes of Chinese rock sugar (can generally be found at Asian and particularly Chinese food stores; I get mine at 99 Ranch in Jersey City) – can be replaced by extra brown sugar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 skin-on chicken thighs (this amount of sauce could probably have worked for  4 or 5 thighs)
For the gravy, I used:
  • All of the cooking liquid
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of Wondra mixed 1 to 1 with water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • Water, as needed
I mixed everything but the chicken in a pot and brought it up to a boil, cooking until the rock sugar dissolved. I tasted it to make sure the proportions were right. If you don’t know what shoyu chicken is supposed to taste like, just adjust the mix of ingredients until it tastes good to you – should be salty, sweet, and rich. I added the chicken, brought back to a boil, then turned it down to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, flipping each piece over once or twice while they cooked.
Chicken cooking in liquid
I pulled the chicken out of the cooking liquid (be sure to reserve this to make the gravy) and put on a baking tray (wrapped in foil because that sugary sauce gets messy!) in the oven at 350F. You can also do this on the grill – that really is the best option, just not in the cards for someone in a city apartment with no outdoor space. After about 10 minutes I took the chicken out and made sure that it was at least 165F inside with a thermometer. I finished it off by putting under the broiler (on high) for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to leave it in too long; it will burn easily.


To make the gravy, I brought the cooking liquid back to a boil, and whisked in some of the Wondra and water mixture. I whisked in the cream a little bit at a time, and a little water, and simmered until it thickened a bit and tasted right. This is where you can add more water to thin it out if needed. I served the chicken with the gravy, white rice, and some chopped green beans.
Shoyu Chicken plated

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